Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Finding your Mojo

I've just finished speaking to Philip (not his real name) -he's a manager in his late 50's and you might be forgiven for assuming that he was more worried about retirement at his stage of his working life than putting his energies into his job. For years he has been 'banging on' about staff morale and the importance of listening to staff and, guess what, nobody had been listening to him. Net result -  a demotivated Philip with little engagement in the business he is supposed to be part of leading. He's been counting down the days until he can collect his pension.

That all changed last week, somebody listened to Philip and what is more, tasked him with finding some solutions. Someone took him seriously. Philip couldn't be more excited, his enthusiasm for his new project was palpable. Philip has just found his 'mojo' again and is unstoppable.

Something amazing happens when people connect back with what they really care about. Instead of settling for things, Philip is now on the path to shaping a significant part of his organisation. Philip has just remembered what leadership is all about.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Power up your questions

We all know that questions are a core tool of the coach. However novice coaches struggle with two aspects of questioning - firstly knowing which question to ask and secondly keeping their questions genuinely open  i.e. avoiding leading. Finding the 'right' question is an art in itself and something that only comes with practice and not a few mistakes along the way.

Not all questions are equal - different questions have different purposes and impacts. Really powerful questions feel like blows to the chest and just have you speechless while you try to collect an answer. Try on Peter Hawkins powerful question for size -- "What can you uniquely do that the world of tomorrow needs?". See what I mean.. a very powerful question and not one that is easily or glibly answered.

So here is a way of thinking about the power of questions:
  • Level 1 Non-questions - these are typically leading/closed questions or questions where the coach already knows the answer.  "Don't you think you should take that new job"  ... and the implied answer is of course "yes". These questions are really statements dressed up as questions
  • Level 2 Questions of Inquiry. These sorts of questions are asked from a place of genuine curiosity and are used to gather facts and feelings about the issue the coachee brings. "What sort of job are you interested in?" . These sorts of questions are of course vital for establishing the parameters of the coachees issue but doesn't usually move them forward
  • Level 3 Questions of Ignition. This is where the Peter Hawkins type question comes into play. These sorts of questions push the coachee to think broader/wider/differently and played right can be the key to unlocking a stuck situation. 
If you want to know more about 'Powerful Questions' try the following article

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Perfectionism - playing to win or playing to avoid losing?

Interesting snippet on the radio today talking about perfectionism . Apparently it is not universally bad nor simple!

Recent studies* suggest that 'perfectionism' comes in (at least) two flavours, and has very different personal impact. The 'self-oriented perfectionist' is the sort of person who set themselves high standards, and get a buzz from pulling off a difficult task and doing it well. This in turn seems to enhance their sense of self-esteem and personal motivation, which spurs them on to continue striving to be their best.

By contrast the 'social-oriented perfectionist' has (real or imaginary) standards set for them by others.  They get much less pleasure from their efforts and tend to view their work as inadequate or inferior and report experiencing external pressure or coercion to accomplish tasks. This sort of person is driven not from an internally felt desire to be their best, but more from a fear of failure . A very different place to operate from!

So what sort of perfectionist are you? Psychology Today have a nice quiz if you are interested! Click here for a link to their questionnaire.

*Kilbert, J.J., Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., & Saito, M. (2005). Adaptive and maladaptive aspects of self-oriented versus socially prescribed perfectionismJournal of College Student Development, 46, 141-156.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Out growing the boss

At some point along the way, I remember being told by a very sage person that "Ultimately, charismatic leaders are disempowering". I remember this being quite a shocking thought - I'd had a few charismatic bosses I'd happily have walked on hot coals for, and the idea of them being disempowering was at the time something I wasn't ready to take on board.

Over the years, however this thought has stuck with me and increasingly strikes me as true. It's not just the charismatic types though. I've been working with a coaching client over the course of the year, bridging a period when a much loved boss moved on to pastures new. What has been striking is the growth in my client since her apparently nurturing and supportive boss left the organisation. She has been forced to stand on her own two feet, fight her own battles, rather than fall back on the all too available 'mother hen'. Her confidence has blossomed, and she is performing beyond recognition.

I am quite convinced that one of the prime role of leaders is to grow others as leaders. And this means letting them out grow us if necessary, and being comfortable with that. Tough one!